TV or Projector – Which is Best for You?

If you go to almost any major big box store, you’ll find a wall of TVs somewhere. Some of them are HUGE! So large that it seems questionable whether you could get them in your room or not. If you glance at the prices, you will usually be shocked. Some will be way more expensive than you’d expect but many will cost way less. The traditional advantage of projectors is that you can get a very large image. But how big is big enough? Would a TV or projector be best for you? Let’s discuss!

Quality Differences

Traditionally, the differences in picture quality between TVs and projectors have been fairly equivalent. You could get a projector that created a much larger image with the same resolution and similar picture quality as a TV.

And then came HDR.

HDR or High Dynamic Range is the main feature that has been driving TV sales. The better image quality is often attributed to the resolution, but it is really about the brighter highlights, better black levels, and increased color gamut.

Flat panel TVs can get much brighter than projectors. While HDR for a TV can mean up to 1000 nits, you are lucky to get more than 100 nits out of a projector. No matter how you cut it or how much you spend on a projector, a TV (often at a fraction of the price) will get much brighter and will therefore look better.

Price Differences

Until recently, if you wanted a large image (over 55″-65″ diagonal), the prices of TVs were prohibitive. Easily five figures. No longer. You can find TVs with diagonal measurements in the mid-80″ for less than $4k. We’re not talking bottom-performing TVs with terrible backlighting and black levels. We’re talking OLEDs.

Before you argue that $4000 is a lot of money, we agree. But to find a projector with performance that is even close, you’ll have to spend way more. Even spending all that money will mean you still aren’t getting even close to the black level (and therefore contrast) performance of a quality flat panel TV. Yes, you’ll be able to get a bigger image (if you want something larger than ~80″) but it will never look good as a flat panel.

What is Best for You – A TV or Projector?

The answer to this question lies in your preferred FOV or Field of View and your seating distance. If you calculate your FOV and find out that your screen size should be around 80″ or less, then a TV is definitely best for you over a projector. You get the correct screen size, the better image, and the lower price. If you find that your preferred FOV requires a larger screen, then you’ve got some decisions to make.

projector screen or TV viewing angle

There are two main ways to achieve your preferred FOV. First, you buy a display with the correct size image. If you can’t do that, you can move your seats forward (or the screen closer to your seats). The closer you are to your screen, the smaller the screen can be and still provide the same FOV. With an 83″ TV, you can sit around 7.5′ away and get around a 45° FOV. That’s about the largest FOV most people want. If you prefer smaller, you can move farther away.

As moving your couch is free, it makes sense to try to get to a viewing distance that lets you buy the less expensive, better-looking flat-panel TV over a projector. If you can’t in your room, then you’ll have to shell out a lot more money for a compatible projector setup.

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